Every day we are encouraged to get tested in order to know our HIV statuses so we can live healthy lives but what I have found is that health professionals seem not to be properly trained to deal with the disease. I often hear people who go to public hospitals talk about the torture and abuse they go through when they are getting tested and it’s even worse for some should they test positive.
I found out that I am HIV positive in 2009 and in order to protect myself I will remain anonymous. The test was done by a private doctor which helped me not go through the similar abuse many often report when returning from hospital or clinic. My doctor guided me and gave me all the relevant information I needed at the time. As a teenager it wasn’t easy but because of a private doctor I was sheltered from all the stresses many go through.
Later that year I went to a public hospital for counseling as required and I was to check my CD4 count on the day as well, but confidentiality didn’t seem to exist there. If one is HIV positive they have to go through three counseling sessions before starting with ARV treatment if the CD4 count is below 250. At the public hospital about 45 of us were stuffed in one room and we were then told what we needed to know. This meant that by me being there I now knew 44 other people who were infected – no confidentiality at all.
I later found out I was pregnant and had to start my anti-natal care (ANC). I went to a clinic first before going to a public hospital. There were 9 new comers for the ANC that day and again we were stuffed in one little room with chairs in a circle. The nurse in charge of us sat there and started writing certificates for the HIV tests we were about to take. I didn’t have an issue with this as I already knew my status but what shocked me was that there was no counseling to any of us.
When I returned for my check up, I had to go for breastfeeding lessons where I was told that breastfeeding is the best and safest as I will be taking ARVs for the baby. As I sat waiting for the nurse to come, a young lady came in and sat with me. Before I knew it she was crying because she had just found out she was positive. She said she hadn’t received any counseling at all before the test and the nurse looked at her as if she was “crazy”.
Despite this nightmare I take my hat off for the government’s fight against mother to child transmissions. Although my CD4 count was extremely high due to eating and living a healthy life, I had to start taking ARVs at 14 weeks. This is done so that I don’t transmit the disease to the innocent souk growing inside. The midwife in charge of facilitating the process was much better than the first one.
Although clinics and hospitals are worse than hell most of the time, I encourage everyone to go and get tested. If you are positive - it’s not the end of the world. There are issues like having to tell your family and maybe friends about these developments, which is the most painful thing ever but you need the support. I am HIV positive, expecting my first child and I must say it’s quite an experience as my alarm annoys me every day at 9am and 9pm reminding me to take my pills. People who are diabetic also go through the same thing every day, so why should we be different?